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Governor’s Budget Cuts General Assistance

State Budget Proposal – Governor’s Budget Cuts General Assistance

Governor Corbett’s most recent proposal for Pennsylvania’s 2012-2013 budget announced deep cuts to General Assistance programs that serve the state’s neediest, most vulnerable residents.

The Governor’s budget calls for eliminating General Assistance direct cash assistance entirely and slashing funding of General Assistance-related medical assistance by as much as two-thirds.

The elimination of cash assistance will affect 67,000 Pennsylvanians living in poverty, including survivors of domestic violence, disabled or sick individuals, those caring for a sick or disabled person, and adults in drug and alcohol treatment programs.  The income requirements vary by household size but for a family of three, those earning less than $421 per month would qualify.  General Assistance-related Medical Assistance pays for a limited amount of basic medical care to these individuals and many other Pennsylvanians.  More than 60,000 childless adults — about 60 percent men and 40 percent women, according to the Philadelphia-based Community Legal Services — get help from the program each year. They receive about $200 a month and can also qualify for food stamps.

The Department of Public Welfare has not yet shared how it plans to implement the $170 million in planned cuts to this program.  Based on the magnitude of these cuts, estimates show that as many as 80,000 of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents could lose access to critical medical care.  Those in opposition question why a major policy decision is being made in the budget process without hearings on the impact on people who have no other source of income.  The vast majority of those receiving General Assistance use the money for rent, transportation or personal hygiene items.  With few state funding options available to those at risk of losing General Assistance, federally funded Social Security Disability Benefits may provide one option for eligible Pennsylvanians.

The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.  While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration, and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

However, recent changes in the appeal process for Social Security Disability Benefits has resulted in complications for those who are initially denied benefits at the benefit hearing.  Under the new policy, which took effect on July 28, 2011, Social Security will no longer accept a second disability application if the claimant has exercised his or her right to appeal an unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council.  Therefore, if an individual receives an unfavorable decision when they initially apply for benefits, they must choose between appealing the unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council or let the unfavorable decision stand and file a new application for disability benefits.  Under these new rules, it is now, more than ever, important to carefully strategize before beginning the Social Security Disability Benefit process.

For additional info on Social Security Benefits, the following pages are helpful:

  1. Understanding Social Security Benefits
  2. Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool
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